With 30 hours left in the Bush presidency, Powerline attacks the Bush Democracy Project

Here is an e-mail I’ve sent to Scott of Powerline, concerning an entry he posted early this morning:

So, Scott, after seven years of staunchly supporting the Bush Democracy Project, on the last full day of his presidency you issue a stunning refutation of it and point out that it contradicts the basic truths of human nature expressed by the Founding Fathers. You write:

[In his farewell speech, Bush] he insisted that the preservation of American liberty required its universalization:

This is the belief [“the conviction that freedom is the universal gift of Almighty God”] that gave birth to our Nation. And in the long run, advancing this belief is the only practical way to protect our citizens. When people live in freedom, they do not willingly choose leaders who pursue campaigns of terror. When people have hope in the future, they will not cede their lives to violence and extremism….

At the end of President Bush’s first term, Charles Kesler reflected on Bush’s problematic invocation of the human heart in support of free government. The constitutional system of limited government reflects both trust and distrust of the people. If the founders “trusted the people,” why did they limit the power of the people to express their will through the government?

Is it true that “[w}hen people live in freedom, they do not willingly choose leaders who pursue campaigns of terror”? In Federalist No. 9, Publius professed a different reading of history:

It is impossible to read the history of the petty republics of Greece and Italy without feeling sensations of horror and disgust at the distractions with which they were continually agitated, and at the rapid succession of revolutions by which they were kept in a state of perpetual vibration between the extremes of tyranny and anarchy.

Publius found the source of tyranny in human nature. [Emphasis added.] Discussing the tendency of partisan division to destroy democracy, Publius sought to remedy the “violence of faction.” In Federalist No. 10, Publius observes:

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.

[end of quotation of Powerline.]

In this discussion, with the help of Publius, you have shattered the Rouseauian-sentimental-liberal assumptions underlying Bush’s Democracy Project, namely that since people are naturally good, all you have to do is give people freedom, and they will manifest their goodness. Yet you never made these arguments before, or, if you did so, you did so sotto voce. For the last six years, you at Powerline have been extravagantly devoted supporters of Bush and the Bush Democracy Doctrine. Had you and other establishment conservatives spoken loud and clear back then the truths you are so belatedly speaking now, the conservative movement might have maintained some intellectual integrity and life. Instead, you followed Bush off the cliff. And now, on the last day of his presidency, you attack his doctrine that you have supported for all these years.

You guys are really something.

- end of initial entry -

Kevin V. writes:

That is stunningly shameless, even by the degraded standards of such bland boilerplate cheerleaders. I have run out of things to say about such cowardice, delivered on the very last day of Bush. Now they find their spines. Amazing.

What useless little lawyer poodles these fools are.

Flyboy writes:

You have noted this tendency before, most recently expressed in the We-Adore-Sarah-Palin crowd.

What the leader proposes the supporters support—isn’t that what supporters are for? Anything else might be viewed as cracks in the unity of the movement; heaven forbid that someone should call “us” on that and question our loyalty to the party, the leader, winning the election, the “whatever.”

That this manifests itself in the conservative mainstream as well as the more expected liberal crowd, should come as no surprise to you. When no real distinction is possible on the basis of beliefs, principles and policies, what is truly left to believe other than . the Leader. The contest therefore turns into a personality cult.

This principle is further demonstrated by the constant battles you wage in your commentaries at VFR: You believe you address someone’s position, they react to what is perceived as a personal attack. Now, your choice of words can occasionally be viewed as both harsh and insulting, however, even when you stick to the matter at hand you are mostly accused of attacking the person. Isn’t this further proof, they believe that they ARE their views and opinions, ie internalized feelings as opposed to intellectual debatable objects that conform to a standard, way apart from oneself?

LA replies:

You lay out as a general fact of politics the idea that people conform to their team. But is it the case that it was always like this, to the degree that we have now? Of course, in the past, party loyalty was a far bigger thing than it is today. But this did not prevent vigorous and substantive debate. Also, in the old days, if a journalist of the same party as the president fundamentally differed from the president on his main policy, I think he would have spoken out. It seems to me that people today are far more geared to maintaining relationships than to speaking their mind.

And even if your theory is correct, it can’t explain the stunning shamelessness of backing Bush’s policies all these years, and then attacking it on Bush’s last day in office.

Alan Roebuck writes:

Bush: “Et tu, Powerline?”

January 27

LA writes:

For perspective, here is what John of Powerline said in December 2006:

As Paul says, I see no sign that Iraq’s Shia population has any desire to live under the Mullahs. The main purpose of the Iraq war was to begin bringing freedom and democracy to the Arab world. If Iraq does become a relatively progressive democracy, any affinity between its citizens and those of Iran will add to the reformist pressure in Iran. At the end of the day, if Iran and Iraq wind up as friendly as the U.S and Canada, that’s a good thing, compared to the bloody rivalry they experienced under Saddam. [Emphasis added.]

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 19, 2009 05:42 PM | Send

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